Sometimes political operatives go too far. Opponents of Maine’s long-standing and popular same-day voter registration system killed it in the legislature this year – but they still have to face an unhappy public at the polls. Sadly, their main campaign tactic appears to be producing lists that smear the good names of Maine residents, and the integrity of the state’s elections, with unfounded insinuations of election crimes.
First there was the list of 206: 206 students living at the University of Maine, who had come to identify Maine as their new home, but paid out-of-state tuition under the University’s strict rules. Suddenly a politician holds a press conference, and their hometowns, initials, and birth dates appear on a blacklist of students that “may have committed voter fraud.” The secretary of state then folded this list into a serious criminal investigation, which proceeded in spite of the easily-discovered fact that the sole criterion used to compile it – that the 206 paid out-of-state tuition – has nothing to do with their eligibility to vote in Maine.
The secretary recently confirmed that his investigation of the list revealed no evidence of fraud, but inexplicably, even as he affirmed that students have every legal right to vote where they live, he questioned their patriotism for doing so. The ACLU of Maine and allied organizations wrote Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers today, demanding he send a new letter clarifying these voters’ rights and correcting the record.
Then came the list of 19: 19 young adults who availed themselves of Maine’s longstanding tradition of election day registration in 2004. But these voters registered from a nontraditional residence – the Holiday Inn. Rather than simply ask “why?” partisans started pounding tables in September, using this “uncovered” evidence as proof that Mainers should vote to uphold the repeal of same-day registration.
It took a simple phone call to discover that during the 2004 school year, the entire Holiday Inn was, in fact, a St. Joseph’s College dorm housing transfer students whose campus had been ravaged by Hurricane Ivan. Long after the hotel confirmed this fact to the media, the press release “revealing” these students remains on a state political party’s website, ignoring the far less scandalous truth. The only thing these 19 Mainers appear to be guilty of is having had the gall to be displaced by a natural disaster during an election year.
Full Article: Ballot Box Bullies | Brennan Center for Justice.